Government must get behind votes at 16 Bill, says Electoral Reform Society

Posted on the 2nd November 2017

  • Darren Hughes is available for interviews. For more information, contact [email protected] or 07717211630
  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release, 2nd November 2017

The Electoral Reform Society are calling on the government to back the Bill [1] to extend the franchise when it comes before the Commons tomorrow.

The Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill seeks to introduce votes at 16 for all elections.

Several Conservative MPs including Sarah Wollaston, Sir Peter Bottomley and Glyn Davies are supportive of votes at 16. Having previously opposed it before the Scottish independence vote, Ruth Davidson is now a prominent supporter [2].

In June 2015 Holyrood voted unanimously to give 16- and 17-year olds the vote in Scottish Parliamentary and local elections, and votes at 16 is likely to be introduced soon in Wales [3].

Over 89% of 16- and 17-year-olds registered to vote in the Scottish independence referendum, while 16- and 17-year-olds accessed more information from a wider variety of sources than any other age-group, according to research [4].

Evidence from Austria and Norway shows that 16- and 17-year-olds have higher rates of turnout than 18- to 34-year-olds.

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s time for the government to send a positive message to the UK’s young people and back a fairer franchise.

“There are plenty of Conservatives who back votes at 16, and with good reason. As Ruth Davidson recognises, the Scottish independence referendum showed just how involved, informed and engaged those young people are.

“When 16 and 17 year olds are given the chance to engage with politics, they embrace it –and that’s good for all of us. It’s time to extend the lessons from Scotland to the rest of the UK.

“Extending the vote to 16 and 17 year olds is vital to making this country a place of active citizens and a healthy democracy.

“This is a real opportunity to get the next generation more engaged with politics. With the extension of citizenship education, this is the first generation where everyone has studied our democracy, our electoral systems and the importance of voting – yet they are being denied their full rights as citizens. Let’s put that knowledge into practice.

“If young people are registered early and get into the habit of voting, make no mistake – we will see lasting improvements in turnout. If they vote early, they vote often.

“The government have missed several opportunities to create a fairer franchise for the UK. They must not miss this one. It is not too late to give young people a real voice and stake in our democracy.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

[1] The Private Member’s Bill has its Second Reading on Friday 3rd November https://services.parliament.uk/bills/2017-19/representationofthepeopleyoungpeoplesenfranchisementandeducation.html

[2] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/why-ruth-davidson-supports-votes-at-16/

[3] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/wales-tears-down-barriers-to-democracy-as-england-fortifies-them/

[4] Eichhorn, J. (2014) ‘How lowering the voting age to 16 can be an opportunity to improve youth political engagement: Lessons learned from the Scottish Independence Referendum, Dlpart: Think Tank for political participation.

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